Saturday, February 16, 2008

Middle Ground.

Yesterday it was very nearly warm, walk-the-half-mile-to-that-meeting-
instead-of-drive warm, snow still on the ground in the shadiest of places, but warm, or warming. Today we're a little chillier, but it's not the wild back-and-forth swing of earlier this month. We're sunny, and the light's distinctly yellower, not that solstice white. I think I tend to think of a winter day as a lingering 40-degree rain, or as the prospect of ice, of snow flurries, or as one of those freeze-dried afternoons, cloudless, the temperature falling through the twenties and headed for the teens. A spring day's easy enough to conjure. No example needed, really. The days I sometimes neglect are days like today, a little chillier than yesterday, interstitial, our buffer between this and that. Late next week they want to give us sixty-degree days. Sunday night they want a cold hard rain. In between, they want more of this. A pause. A federal holiday, banks closed and no mail. Holding pattern. The dog at the other end of the driveway, you saying Stay, stay.

And we are greening over, even if it's mainly in the smaller of signs: Trash onions up in all the lawns, for starters. The pansies heaving up and out of themselves a little bit, new blooms, foliage that pitch-dark green, the plants suddenly twice as big, seemingly, as they were a month ago. I've found tulips edging up out of the soil, and that seems early, but the daffodils have held their blooms back now a week and a half after I thought they would, so. The buds on the Japanese magnolia have started to swell a little, and that seems right: Give or take March 15 I start looking for color.

All this means there are tasks to be completed, then, checklists: rake the ivy out, pull the last of the leaves out of the flowerbeds, mulch the walkways back in, pull the early insurgent chickweed out of the daylily beds, maybe even think one more time about what to do with that no-man's land up front in the yard. Ivy? Other groundcovers? AMR once gave me a book by the title Groundcovers for the South. This is a book with a very specific audience, and the jokes are pretty easy. Still: Turns out I'm a member of that tribe.

But this is not the place to talk about Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata) or whether it would spread at a moderate rate by rhizomes in the partial shade and humus-rich, well-drained soil of my front yard. This is the place to record the weather, and maybe, as per my grandfather, what I had to eat. A day like this—warm enough to go out and check the daffodils one more time, cool enough to think about a hat—is a plain, basic day. A good day. A day in which to maybe try to get halfway ready for what comes next. Get the shovels and rakes lined up. Put the flannels in the wash.

Yesterday: High in the low sixties, and a slide back towards forty overnight. Today: Mid-fifties, and mid-thirties. Dry, but snowmelt enough to matter. Last night a party with too much talk about work, one more time around a carousel of our own careful making, and a late bad fast-food dinner. I am struggling, struggling with the academy, and with my little place in it. Tonight, though, the product of what ought to be a better day— perhaps, even, a return to ritual: charcoal, a cocktail, a foil pack of potatoes and onions sizzling away. When you can smell the garlic and rosemary, they're done. Ought to be cool enough to get a good look at the night sky. We see Orion less and less. Almost time for other constellations.

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